Lunch with a bunch of Swedes

Ah. My first real test of whether things have changed since the last time we lived here: lunch with the in-laws and some other family members.

Let’s start with my thoughts on the afternoon, in hindsight: it didn’t go too badly.

Thoughts as the afternoon was happening: get me the hell out of here!

Yes, that bad.

It’s hard enough listening and speaking Swedish to people you are familiar with. Throw in some strangers and it gets a little hairy. There was a weird Swedish/English dance going on: they would speak in Swedish, I would reply in English. I would speak in English, they would reply in Swedish. You get the picture. That was until I lost the gist of the conversation and gave up.

It really surprises (and dismays) me that a whole bunch of people can quite happily speak a language that one person doesn’t understand. Never in a million years would I allow a guest in my house to be the odd one out. Yet it happened today and always happened last time we lived here. H was better than he ever used to be – he asked me often if I understood, but it was usually when I did. He seemed blissfully unaware of when I really was struggling to follow – you would have thought that the staring, glassy eyes would have been a bit of a give away.

So, I am in H’s sister’s house, meeting her partner for the first time. Already a little out of my comfort zone as it is. Then they offer me Gazpacho. Well, it would have been Gazpacho if it had been made of tomatoes. This was cucumber, onion and some herbs. Now, I have never been the most adventurous of eaters and have never had (nor fancied) cold soup. But, when in Rome and all that.

My eldest took one mouthful and his mouth twisted in horror. He was also very vocal about his disgust. I told him that it was rude to say that about food that someone else had cooked (or not cooked, in this instance). But, a few seconds later when I tried my first mouthful, I knew exactly where he was coming from. But I didn’t have the luxury of grimacing – I had to mentally screw my face up. Oh, God. It was beyond horrible. Why would anyone inflict cold cucumber soup on another human being? It didn’t help that the others were lapping it up as though it was the nectar of the gods.

Swedish people are quite adventurous with food – although their staples are quite boring (fish, fish, meatballs and more fish), they do seem pretty keen to try new things. But, I am British. The only time I am adventurous with food is when they bring out a new flavour of Walker’s crisps.

So my Swedish was crap today. But I didn’t really care. That’s one difference already. I would have cared before. I would have winced at not being able to find the right words and felt a numpty for not understanding. Then I would have gone home and dwelled on it. Don’t get me wrong, it was no walk in the park, but it was not that bad. It was bearable. And it will get easier.


9 thoughts on “Lunch with a bunch of Swedes

  1. I would have felt excluded in the general conversation that was going on. Good photo of the screwed up face-I have seen a similar one often. Fish, meatballs, fish-tell me, would a long time vegetarian like me survive there.No, don’t say it-cold cucumber soup. Think I will cancel my flight.

  2. Hilarious. Even from my short stint in London I cracked up at the Walker’s reference. I’ll have to say that the Swedes that I’ve had dinner with have always been polite and spoken English with me. The food I’ve had has been good but like you, I am not adventurous with food. I am trying though but I’ll have to say we eat mostly American food at home.

  3. Oh no, that doesn’t sound like much fun 😦 I asked my husband about his experience of Swedish family dinners and he said that sometimes we launch into a long conversation in Swedish that he can’t follow but most of the time we stick to English. But then my parents have lived in the UK for many years so it’s more natural for them. On the other hand, I would have thought that, as you have just arrived in Sweden the in-laws should be making an extra effort to ensure that you feel comfortable and welcome at family gatherings.

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